Calls to invest in women farmers

Fatima Bulla
African governments must empower women — who are the continent’s main food producers — by giving them title to land, philanthropist Mrs Graca Machel has said.

The former First Lady of Mozambique and wife of the late Mr Nelson Mandela said this in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, at a recent symposium under the banner of Women Advancing Africa (WAA).

“Our survival as Africans is to keep the land in the hands of Africans. Bring somebody who will make sure that those families have title deeds, no one is going to take it from them. And you say to yourself in three to five years all the farmers I’m working with are secure,” she said.

Zimbabwe is classified as an agrarian economy, and the 2017 Country Gender Assessment Profile of Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods of Zimbabwe by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and a 2011-2015 Zundaf report, indicate that over 70 percent of Zimbabweans — mostly women — rely on agriculture as their main source of livelihood.

Zimbabwean women constitute between 12 and 18 percent of beneficiaries of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme.

Experts say if women had the same access to resources as men, they could increase agricultural yields by 20-30 percent. This would reduce the number of hungry people by between 15-20 percent.

Boka Investments Zimbabwe group CEO Mrs Rudo Boka-Mutambanengwe told the Tanzania meeting that: “More opportunities for women lie in diversifying agricultural produce, horticulture, processing and value addition of agriculture produce. “We need diversification. As the informal sector is estimated at about 90 percent there is an opportunity in horticulture, processing, and value addition.”

Nigeria-based businesswoman and co-founder of Sahel Capital Management Mrs Ndidi Nwunwli, said deliberate steps had to be taken to increase women’s participation in the agri-business value chain.

“There are not enough women in the pipeline due to a knowledge gap. We need to think about programmes to support women’s businesses which are ready for financing. ‘‘Women have to move up the value chain because this is where the money is,” she said.

Endorsing this view, FAO recommends — among other strategies — the “need to support the capacity strengthening of field agricultural extension officers in gender- sensitive extension approaches for not only crop production but post-harvest management extension, as well as providing them with the material, capital and equipment needed to enable them to reach women farmers”.

Mr Sangu Delle, a Ghanaian entrepreneur and founder of Clean ACWA, emphasised the positive social returns from investing in women. “We know from empirical research that every incremental dollar in the hands of women, 90c gets reinvested in the family’s health, education versus 40c for men.

“If we achieve gender equality on the continent today we will increase our GDP by US$300 billion. The total development aid is US$57 billion dollars, why are we going outside begging when by achieving gender equality we can actually increase GDP by US$300 billion dollars?

“So when we talk about gender equality or gender equity this is not a charity case, this is not just a social and moral cause, we have an economic imperative as a continent to invest in our women,” he said.

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